Memories and highlights
It is time to say farewell; farewell to our guides, to our travel companions, to our tour operators, to our dependable vehicle, to Africa. Our group farewell dinner is held at the atmospheric Talisman in Karen, Trip Advisor’s number one restaurant in Nairobi. At a round table, Eddie, Jan, Graham, Judy, Martin and myself enjoy each other’s company for the last formal time and wish each other the best for the future. After eight weeks of sharing close company we are still on good terms. We partake of an excellent three course meal – I have sushi for starters, prawns and smoked fish with mushroom sauce for mains, and vanilla ice cream to finish. Very enjoyable.
The following morning we say goodbye to Eddie and Jan who have looked after us so well for the last two months, and we take a few more group photos for the memory. Graham announces that we have driven 10,430 kilometres together from Cape Town. Timo, from Africa Expedition Support, arrives to accompany us in our land rovers to his and Debs’ home on the Champagne Range in the Kajiado area. In colonial days, the European population used to drive to the ridge for Sunday picnics and to admire the view. We follow Timo through the forest over rough dirt roads and out along the ridge through the dry hills, our final journey in our land rover. The drive is only 35 kilometres but it takes over an hour and a half to reach Timo’s workshop. The yard is scattered with land rovers, some being prepared for future trips, others there to provide spare parts for repairs; one is a vehicle that Timo is rebuilding for Debs.
With a last nostalgic pat on the bonnet and a final photo, we leave our land rover there and pile in with the Thomases to travel the last three or four kilometres to the house. The road is even more rutted and bumpy, a good security factor, Debs says. The house stands on ten acres of land on the ridge overlooking the valley and the hills beyond, a dry landscape with no expectation of rain for at least three months. With no fences, zebra and antelope are free to wander through the property, to the delight of Debs and Timo. The sun shines and all is still and quiet. I let peace fall upon me as I acknowledge the busyness and constant activity of the last eight weeks. But it has been a really great experience. I am so glad I have come to Africa.
Debs and Timo have an interesting home. The original section was built by a New Zealander, mainly from large metal containers joined together. They have added a new part at the side and plan to convert the old section into a guest wing. Debs has created a sumptuous kitchen with a large mahogany island, display stands for recipe books and purpose-built racks for utensils, knives and ingredients. She obviously relishes cooking, providing a scrumptious lunch on the outdoor patio – roast chicken, roast potato and butternut and a green salad, capped off with coffee and carrot cake. We enjoy their company as we sit and discuss life in Kenya and its future.
At the end of the afternoon Debs runs us back to the Wildebeest and we say a final farewell and thank you to her for the whole wonderful trip. In the morning it is another farewell to Graham and Judy who are on their way to Uganda to visit a sponsored child before the flight back to Australia. They plan to visit New Zealand in November so we expect to see them again then.
We finish our packing and I decide there is room for just one more souvenir, a wire land rover which I purchase from the Wildebeest shop. What better memento of our adventure! We leave the Wildebeest at 12.30am and drive through a deserted city to the airport to fly out to Ankara to visit our daughter and her family for two weeks.
As I settle down for the six hour flight, I know I want to return to Africa. I have been here for over eight weeks, but it is a big continent and there is so much more to see and to understand. But then, is it possible in a life time to understand the issues that surround this continent? We have pondered questions of aid and the good or otherwise that it brings; of unstable politics and the ‘big man’ syndrome, so prevalent; of conservation and the balancing act between preserving culture and nature; of corruption and exploitation, whether it is from an external source or from within – so many interesting issues that provide stimulating thought and conversation, but for which there is no straight forward answer.
I ask myself what I particularly enjoyed. Some of the highlights come to mind: the cable car up Table Mountain on that beautiful clear sunny day, camping in the vast emptiness of the Namib desert, the amazing sand dunes of Sossusvlei, the drenching we got at the Victoria Falls and the sunset drinks at the Royal Livingstone on the Zambesi River, swimming in Lake Malawi beside the simple dugout canoes used for fishing, the brilliant blue of the water around Prison Island off Zanzibar, and the peep into African colonial life at Karen Blixen’s ‘Out of Africa’ museum.
Then there are the national parks and the wildlife. My first wild elephant at Etosha, a solitary and elderly male striding along within metres of our vehicle, the rare sighting of the cheetah and her cub also in Etosha, the leopard in South Luangwa National Park, stalking the impala which in turn ran hissing at the large cat, the tree climbing lions at Manyara, and the male lion waiting for his meal while his three females pursued their buffalo quarry. That reminds me of the Serengeti, so impressive in its landscapes and livestock: the iconic acacia trees and the golden grasslands, the large herds of elephants and the wildebeest and zebra migration. There is so much more in the country’s parks – the elegant slim-lined springbok and the lumbering two horned rhino, both emblematic of Africa, but so different.
The people have been so fascinating: the children gathering out of the bush around our roadside lunch spots, the scamp who wanted to sell Martin the t-shirts, the Europeans hungry for empathetic company, the women of Africa carrying their world on their heads or their backs, whether it be babies or firewood or animal fodder or water. I will long remember the village women cooking in their dark kitchen on the floor, bending over their small fires ringed with stones. There was the policeman who with great politeness asked if we wanted to make a donation to his cause, and the confidence and fearlessness of youth at the Victoria Falls bridge bungee jump. From Cape Town to Nairobi there were the vendors with their pleas to Mama to make a purchase.
Even the times that did not run smoothly like the crossing of the Zambesi River from Botswana to Zambia can be put down as part of the entertaining ‘this is Africa’ experience. Similarly one can regard the bureaucracy at the passport controls, the policeman who wouldn’t let Graham post a letter in the postal slot outside the ‘open’ hours, and the boat driver who had to borrow a Leatherman from a tourist when the Chobe boat broke down. They all make for memorable and humourous stories to tell.
Travelling in Africa has taught me a new appreciation of land rovers, the only vehicle you should drive in Africa to savour the full experience of the safari. They now have a decided place in my mind and heart. Whenever I see a land rover, my eyes will light up and I will be reminded of our trip. For Martin there has been the exhilarating challenge of the driving, all 10,500 odd kilometres of the journey. He really did enjoy it, even the excursion through the crowded and chaotic thoroughfares of Dar es Salaam, or the villages of Tanzania with their awful judder bars and police at the ready to hand out speeding tickets.
Yes, when I get home I shall write a blog and share our experiences with others. I will write a blog and enjoy the trip again at my leisure.
Post script: A final thank you to Africa Expedition Support for providing us the opportunity to leave the comfort and security of home and travel into the unknown in Africa. You did enough planning to provide a well put together trip without robbing our journey of a great sense of adventure and intrepid undertaking. A fantastic trip.
You, too, my readers, can embark on your own adventure!
For our next adventure, go to www.outbackspin.travellerspoint.com